Meakin not passing up final chance at Canadian junior curling title

She already has one foot on the next step of her curling career, but Breanne Meakin is not quite finished at the junior level yet.

CALGARY — She already has one foot on the next step of her curling career, but Breanne Meakin is not quite finished at the junior level yet.

The 20-year-old from Winnipeg will skip Manitoba’s entry at the M&M Meat Shops Canadian junior championship starting Saturday in Calgary. Her team is one of the favourites in the women’s field.

Meakin has also played third this winter for Cathy Overton-Clapham, who is a world and Canadian champion. Overton-Clapham’s team is competing in the Manitoba women’s championship this week without Meakin.

While Meakin would love to compete in her first provincial championship, she wasn’t tempted to forgo her last year of junior competition and a chance at a Canadian title.

“Going into my last year of juniors, I want to go out on a good note,” Meakin said. “I was excited to play this last year.”

Meanwhile, Lacombe’s Colin Hodgson is men’s skipping a team out of the Calgary Curling Club and the North Hill Curling Club this weekend as well.

Meakin is the daughter of Rob Meakin, who was Kerry Burtnyk’s second when they won the 1995 men’s world championship. Rob coaches both Meakin’s junior team and Overton-Clapham’s foursome.

The junior team Meakin skips went 6-6 at last year’s junior championship in Sorel-Tracy, Que. She returns armed with lessons learned as vice-skip to Overton-Clapham.

“You can just tell as soon as she walks onto the ice, she owns the ice,” Meakin said. “Even if a little of that has rubbed off on me, I’m a better player for it. She’s taught me patience and communication skills with the team.”

All 10 provinces plus Northern Ontario, Northwest Territories and Yukon will be represented by a men’s and women’s entry at the Canadian juniors for a total of 26 teams. The three teams in each gender with the best round-robin record advance to the playoffs. Games will be played at the North Hill Community Curling Club and the Glencoe Club.

The women’s semifinal and final is Feb. 5, followed by the men’s semi and final Feb. 6 at North Hill. TSN will carry the finals at 5:30 both days.

The winners represent Canada at the world junior championship March 5-13 in Perth, Scotland. Canada has won 16 world junior men’s titles since 1975 and eight women’s championships since 1988.

The women’s field is expected to be tough because of its experienced skips. In addition to Meakin, B.C.’s Dailene Sivertson, Northern Ontario’s Kendra Lilly, Alberta’s Nadine Chyz, Prince Edward Island’s Sarah Fullerton, Saskatchewan’s Trish Paulsen and Yukon’s Sarah Koltun are all skipping teams at junior nationals for a second straight year.

Sivertson, Lilly and Paulsen finished second, third and fourth respectively last year behind champion Rachel Homan of Ontario.

Meakin’s not the only curler at the Canadian juniors with championship bloodlines, nor is she the only one straddling junior and elite competition.

Scott Howard, son of world and Canadian champion Glenn Howard, is third for Mathew Camm’s Ontario junior team. Howard also plays second for Wayne Middaugh’s men’s rink.

Meakin and Howard are in the unique position of being young enough to have a year of junior eligibility left, but old enough to be recruited by some of curling’s powerhouses. That makes them among the hardest workers in the sport.

“It’s been a really heavy schedule,” Howard admitted.

“At the start of the year, I went 16 weekends in a row curling for both teams. When I got the invitation from Wayne, I couldn’t turn it down this year.”

Camm’s team finished high enough in the Canadian tour standings to earn an invitation to December’s Canada Cup of Curling in Medicine Hat, where they took on the sport’s heavyweights.

The junior team went 0-5 there, including a loss to Howard’s dad, but they gained valuable experience they’ll bring with them to Calgary. Howard says they went 38-0 in against junior competition in Ontario.

“Our team is really slow to get off the start and we’re usually tied up playing five,” Howard said. “We’re a second half team. We definitely get it going after the fifth end.

“We’re a pretty aggressive team with lots of rocks in play. Mat makes a ton of shots, which is huge.”

Another team to watch is Braeden Moskowy, who skipped Saskatchewan to third place last year.

Canada’s junior curlers now show up to nationals with textbook deliveries thanks to the Dartfish technology implemented before the 2010 Winter Olympics.

At camps across the country, curlers between 13 and 18 can watch their own delivery on a laptop computer immediately after sliding out of the hack, and then refine their technique on their next try. The technology is portable because all it requires is a video camera and laptop computer.

“That’s a big part of what we do now,” said Paul Webster, a national development coach with the Canadian Curling Association. “We started using that probably seven or eight years ago now prior to 2010. We use it from juniors all the way up to our top athletes. It just speeds up the learning curve and speeds up the trust between instructor and students.”

Junior teams are also encouraged to use the new Equalizer broom head, which was a top secret project developed by Own The Podium for the 2010 Winter Olympics. It’s now available commercially.

A heat shield in the broom head melts the frost on the ice and allows the sweeper to move a rock further with less effort. Webster estimates eight to 10 teams at the Canadian juniors will be using that technology.

“It could provide them with possibly an extra two to three feet which is extremely important,” Webster said.